December 31, 2009

Happy 2010!

flag day 036 Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne!

flag day 041For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne. 
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.
  flag day 044

May 2010 bring you a year filled with happiness and joy!

December 30, 2009

2009 In Review: It’s All About You!

One of the most rewarding and gratifying things about writing Pigtown*Design is having the chance to meet new people, literally from all over the world. My family has always had a tradition of having friends, or friends of friends come stay with and it’s always an adventure to meet new people, because you never know where it will lead. I just think of the blog as a 21st century version of this.

In March, Chris, the editor of Easy & Elegant Life, and I got together to create April Food Day. With his background in advertising and mine in fundraising, we thought we could pool our talents and raise some money for and awareness about the issue of hunger in America. More than 150 blogs participated by writing a piece on their blog, adding the April Food Day logo and linking to Feeding America, so that people could make donations. We plan to make April Food Day an annual event.header1 copyI had the opportunity to meet a number of fellow bloggers in September at a lovely party given in honour of Eddie Ross and his partner, Jaithan Kochar, given my My Notting Hill, Michele Ginnerty. Among the guests were including Stefan of Architect Design, Thomas of My White Shirt, Scot of Domicidal Maniac, Janet of JCB, Beth of Style Redux AND Chinoiserie Chic, Jenn at Department of the Interior, Lauren at Pure Style Home, and Terri at Wind Lost who was here from Calgary, Canada. As much fun as the cocktail party was the trip to the Big DC Flea the next day, with Eddie and Jaithan showing us how to search for treasures.My Notting Hill Later in September and again in November, I met up with the Historic House Group to tour the historic Hampton Mansion, just outside of Baltimore and two historic houses in Philadelphia. Blogger JCB puts the schedule for these tours together and makes all of the arrangements, which is a tremendous thing to do! In addition to being an educational adventure, it’s also been tons of fun getting to know some of the DC bloggers.tres bloggersIn March, I learned to understand the true power of the blogs and who my friends were when many many of you leapt to my defense when some anon commenter made some very nasty remarks about a party I had attended. It all happened on a day when I was away from the computer and when I saw how many people had said such good things about me, I was humbled. (This is Mr. Big… he was my escort to the party!) Party 025 Of course, the most amazing thing this year was the overwhelming response to the video I posted a week or so ago. My friend, Joni from Cote de Texas posted it and a little story on her blog and we raised more than $5,000 in a week! This meant that the children where I work would have a great Christmas. It’s all a clear indication of the power of blogging and the internets. Joni In addition, this year I was able to meet Valorie from Visual Vamp who was here in Baltimore teaching tango lessons, Marnie from MRR Designs who was here looking at colleges for her daughter, Liz from The Felted Garden who was selling her beautiful felted scarves at the American Crafts Council fair and Alyssa from Coterie, who arrived bearing great books to donate to Book Thing. However,there are many fellow bloggers with whom I regularly communicate and whom I hope to meet in the coming year, including the hilarious and well-dressed Maxminimus, the easy and elegant gent from Easy & Elegant Life, the well-designed M21, the delightful Mrs. Blandings and many others!Mrs. BlandingsBut the very best thing about this whole blogging adventure is YOU! It is humbling to realize that so many people take the time out of their busy days to spend a little time reading Pigtown*Design, and take even more time to comment or send me an e-mail. There are not words enough to express how much this means to me, and how much it pleases me to know people are reading!

Thank you, as always, for reading Pigtown*Design!

December 29, 2009

2009 in Review: My Favourites

As I said yesterday, some of the posts that were my favourites, didn’t necessarily seem to be yours, judging from the lack of comments!  The ones I’ve chosen have a more personal resonance with me, which may not translate to you.

In no particular order, here are my favourite posts of 2009.

In September, I did a post called Ten Castles. I realize how lucky I am to have the experience of spending time in places like these castles, especially the amazing St. Donat’s Castle in Wales. The experiences have been vastly different, from working in one to being haunted in another. Each place has a special significance and memory, including Caerphilly Castle where I spent the evening of July 4th.caerphilly_castle Another touchstone place in the UK is the tiny Kilpeck Church, which I wrote about in July. There’s been a church on this property since 650 AD, and this one has been standing since the mid-1100’s. The carvings around the roofline of the church have always enchanted me, especially the one of the puppy and bunny. It’s timeless.kilpeck carving In January, I wrote about my friend Flip’s house, here and here. She’s taken a classic late 1800’s town-house and added her own special touches to the elegant architectural elements. Her style is unique and fun, and many of her pieces come from our friends at Housewerks and other salvagers, including this 12-foot long storage cabinet.Flips House

This has been a very rainy year in mid-Atlantic and that resulted in an incredible display of flowers all through the seasons. In May, we visited the famous topiary gardens at Ladew, just outside of Baltimore. In May, I also began seeing peonies at the Farmers’ Market and bought as many as I could. Later in the summer, there were bursts of orange everywhere in the form of day or tiger lilies.

Ladew 035 4-24 015

6-18 020My absolute favourite post this year was called My Heart is Bursting. I still get misty-eyed when I think of the incredible gift from House of Beauty & Culture that arrived in the post one hot July afternoon. As I unwrapped the beautiful, hand-crafted spoons in the French-Ivory pattern I’ve been collecting for years, and realized the thought, attention and love that went into this gift, I realized that I truly have incredible friends. I still have the pictures on my camera because it makes me happy to look at the spoons. spoons 005

Tomorrow, one more retrospective… and it’s all about you!

December 28, 2009

2009 In Review: Your Favourites

I think that almost everyone will be so glad to see the last of 2009. It’s been one of those years that has been rough on everyone, including me. Two bad pieces of news for me were getting my hours at work cut to four days a week, with the accompanying pay cut, and having my landlords tell me they were selling the house where I’ve been living.

However, neither of these two things is bad at all when I put them into perspective. I still have a job that I love and I still have a roof over my head, unlike so many other people.

As I was looking back through my nearly 340 posts of 2009, it struck me that some of the posts you liked best, and commented upon the most, were not always my favourites. Here are your top picks, in no particular order:

One post that struck a chord with a lot of people was titled Small World. I had just gotten back in touch with a childhood friend and neighbour, a very talented photographer whose people were from New Orleans, only to find out a few days later that he had been killed in a motorcycle crash. His death hit me harder than I ever would have expected. remanjon_090808_0508 I wrote about fellow Baltimorean, Billy Baldwin, several times this year. I attended a lecture about Billy Baldwin at Evergreen House (pictured above) in the spring, and found out that we’d grown up just a few blocks from each other and tracked down the house where I think that he lived. Since I was in the neighbourhood, I took some pictures of other houses on the same street, and the one adjoining it. BB 021 I was lucky enough to find a signed copy of “Billy Baldwin Remembers” at thrift shop where-rich-old-ladies-donate-amazing-things. I suspect that whoever donated the book may have known BB. A few months later, I found “Billy Baldwin Decorates” at the Book Thing. I am pretty sure that I remember it having a faint glow around it!

BB_Remembers  bbaldwin
Another post that generated a lot of comments was one about bloggers having a code of ethics and saying when they’ve received goods or services in exchange for a mention on the blog. As more and more marketing companies realize the influence of bloggers, they are seeking bloggers positive reviews of almost any product, knowing that the bloggers can get the eyeballs that the marketers may miss. If bloggers are up-front about receiving the goods or services they are promoting, it goes a long way towards establishing credibility. soup I have truly appreciated all of the comments and suggestions I received during the painting project we undertook in our historic 1850’s house at Woodbourne. It’s still not completely finished, with the holidays and the painters being sick, but we hope to have it completed this week. Your ideas and hints were a huge help to us in selecting paint colours and your encouragement went a long way!tassel  004 Another project of mine that generated a lot of comments was the Turgot Plan De Paris, circa 1734 that I found on line and then downloaded, page by page and resized and digitized. It’s really a stunning map and I papered my dining room wall with a copy of it. I think that this map is so interesting because of its incredibly fine detail and scale. There are links to a variety of ways you can download this map here. It was thanks to fellow blogger, The Corinthian Column that I found the map! 10-4 042Tomorrow, I will post my favourite stories from 2009.
Thanks, as always, for reading Pigtown*Design! 

December 27, 2009

Perfect for a Cold Winter’s Night

What I wouldn’t do to have a nice fireplace to curl up in front of, with Connor at my feet and a good book in my lap! When I saw this house with its 17th century exposed beams, stone floors and vaulted ceilings, I thought it would be perfect!  Unfortunately, it’s on the market for £1.15 million, which is a bit out of my current price range. But a girl can dream…honiton devon Ohhhh… check out the kitchen with the red Aga stove!honiton devon2Not so wild about the rest of the house, which you can peruse here.

December 25, 2009

The Queen’s Christmas Speech 2009

Another tradition that I observe is listening, and now watching, Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas speech to her subjects, both in the UK, and scattered around the countries of the Commonwealth.

As always, this year’s speech was wide ranging, touching on topics as varied as the war in Afghanistan and the current state of the environment.

However, the best part of the speech is the playing of “God Save the Queen” on the steel drums in Jamaica. It’s worth watching the video just to see this!

December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and your family all of the happiness of the Christmas Season!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!


Meg & Connor

December 23, 2009

Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols

One of the most important parts of my preparation for Christmas is listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve morning as I am preparing for the festivities later on in the day. This is a quiet contemplation of what Christmas is all about, and comes from the spectacular King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England.

The BBC's weekly radio newsletter puts it beautifully:

As the winter evening shadows lengthen, a solo chorister sings the first verse of “Once in Royal David's City” in the expectant stillness of King's College Chapel, Cambridge. The experience we have here is shared with millions around the world...

The solo chorister is chosen minutes before the service begins so that he won't have time to get nervous. Every time I hear the opening notes of "Once in Royal David's City", I just burst into tears. There's just something so moving about this.

The Festival was something that my father and I both loved deeply and I was lucky enough to spend a summer afternoon at King's College Chapel with him and my mother. I have an abiding image in my mind of my father and his sister as children in England listening to the service on their old radio while their father prepared their Christmas dinner.kings_choir There's also a lovely line in the service about remembering "all those who rejoice with us, but on another shore and in a greater light", which was a reference to those lost during the Second World War, although I used to think it referred to my grandfather in England.

The Nine Lessons tradition began in 1928 and has only not happened once, in 1930. The service continued during WWII even though the magnificent stained glass windows of the chapel had been removed for safekeeping.

You can listen to this service on BBC World Service or on public radio stations in the US. It is usually repeated on Christmas Day.

Reprinted from Pigtown Design, December 2007

December 22, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

At Woodbourne, we have been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers this week. Truly awed by the generosity of people whom we do not know. 12-22 010 The response to our video, posted at the end of last week has generated more than $3,500 in on-line contributions, plus nearly $2,000 more through the mail.

Today, we received a shipment from a new and very generous donor of a huge assortment of board and card games from Amazon.

12-22 001 12-22 003

I also received another wonderful package, but unfortunately, I can’t read the name on the card, and there’s no return address. If you sent this package, please e-mail me!12-22 002

Another donor stopped by with more than 130 fleece pillows and blankets that she’d made. This is a great present for the kids, since they frequently arrive with nothing at all, and having a blanket or pillow of their own can be a great comfort to them.12-22 009 We have also gotten lots of art supplies, including coloured pens and markers, art pads and paints. A lot of the boys wanted journals and we got a few of the magnificent Moleskine notebooks! Another friend made cookies and a cake and also sent over a crate of Clementines for the kids. You can also see a carton of binders, which some of the boys also requested. They have school binders, but they like to write down their thoughts as part of their therapy.12-22 005Everyone has joined together to help Woodbourne make this a holiday season that our children will remember forever!

December 20, 2009

Weekend Update

The final tally was 21 inches of snow in less than 24 hours! Technically, we are in the South here in Baltimore, so when we get a snowfall of this magnitude, it throws us into a tizzy! Stores were closed yesterday, public transport stopped running and everyone hunkered down at home.

I managed to get my car cleared off today after about an hour of digging. Here’s the before and after shot.

12-19 011 snow3

It was such fun walking around today in the beautiful clear weather and seeing how gorgeous everything looked with a coating of brilliant white snow. Here’s a house we saw that was perfectly decorated for Christmas.snow8 We saw this little darling sitting next to a wee snowman her mother had made. There’s nothing more fun that watching a child play in the snow for the first time.snow5 I am in awe of how incredible the response has been to our video! We have been getting on-line donations from you all and from Joni’s Cote de Texas readers. My friend Maxminimus has also added the link to his blog, which has a great readership. If you’d like to add it to your blog, please feel free to spread the word!meg_and_connor3 Thank you all so much from me, and from the children in our care at Woodbourne.

December 19, 2009

SNOW! (and even more snow!)

It’s snowing here. It started late last night and is supposed to continue though until Sunday morning. It’s an official blizzard, with the amount of snow falling, the wind levels and the temperatures, right now, about 22 degrees. I understand that it’s coming down at almost a half an inch an hour.12-19 002Connor and I have taken a few walks today, but it’s pretty cold, so they’re short walks. 12-19 005Baltimore’s Ravens have a big football game tomorrow against the Chicago Bears. Lots of my Baltimore and Chicago friends are coming. Since the stadium is open-air, there are a lot of logistics getting involved in clearing out the stands and the field. Ravens Stadium c Baltimore Sun Of course, Chicago hasn’t flown into Baltimore yet, so who knows what will happen tomorrow?12-19 007Most of all, who knows how much snow we will get before it finally ends?

*** We are at 15+ inches now (9 p.m) and it’s still snowing, although it’s lightened up a bit. This is the largest December snowfall recorded in Baltimore, and it’s sweeping its way up the mid-Atlantic coast and then out to sea.

My neighbourhood looks like a winter wonderland. 12-19 013I managed to get an ace parking spot, so it will just be a matter of clearing the car, doing a little shoveling and then off I go! 12-19 011 My boxwood topiary in front of my house has been mashed by the snow, but hopefully, it will spring back up once the snow’s gone.12-19 010 Connor is still loving the snow, although he’s not as bouncy as his puppy friend Hal!

December 17, 2009

Thank You, Joni

In a spare five minutes this afternoon, I clicked on Cote de Texas to check out what fabulous new thing Joni Webb, the authoress was talking about. What to my wondering eyes should appear, but my berries header! What’s this, I thought… As I scrolled down the post, I just started crying. It was a lovely generous article about me, and the kids at Woodbourne, where I work. Cote de TexasJoni had seen the video I posted yesterday, and had decided to share it, and our story, with her readers who number multiple times what mine are! I was just overwhelmed by her asking her readers to contribute to our kids, and contribute they have.Joni's Roses

Joni… you’re one of the best things that’s come my way through blogging. I am deeply honoured that you’ve chosen to highlight the plight of the children at Woodbourne, and that you have said such lovely things about me! Thank you so very much!


December 16, 2009

Helping at the Holidays

If you’ve been reading Pigtown*Design for a while, you might know that my “real” job is as the Director of Development for the Woodbourne Center. We are one of the oldest charities in the United States and were founded in 1798, after the American Revolution. We care for children who have behavioural and mental health issues and who have suffered from severe traumatic events, including abuse, neglect, addictions and poverty.

This year has been one of the most difficult years in memory for raising money. Foundations, corporations and individuals are all cutting back on their giving. The state has cut their funds drastically and has even asked us to give 2% back!!

As economic conditions worsen, it is often children who suffer. Their parents are more stressed than ever and their frustration is sometimes taken out on their children, who then act out and get into trouble at home and at school. They are often the unseen casualties in the economic climate.

But, through wars and depressions, in good times and bad, Woodbourne has been a refuge for these children, providing them with a safe place to recover from the traumatic events which have scarred their young lives.

My friends at Houpla! volunteered to make a short video asking people to help our children at the holidays. I hope that you will take a few minutes to watch our video and then make a contribution to either Woodbourne or a similar program where you live. I hope that you will also share this video with friends who might also be interested in what we do.

Thank you so much from me and from all of the children in our care here at Woodbourne.